Dressed to Kill: Death and Meaning in Zaya's Desengaños
Published: December 2011© 2011
240 Pages, 6.30 x 9.30 x 0.95 in
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The noble wives in María de Zayas's Desengaños suffer terrible fates: one is beheaded, another poisoned, one is cemented into a chimney, while yet another is locked into a tiny wall closet where she dies. The hallmark of Zayas's aesthetics, these characters are the central reason why her fiction has increased in popularity through the ages. Yet their stories pose an apparent contradiction between the author's pro-female rhetoric and her gusto for killing model women, then beautifying their mutilated cadavers.
Dressed to Kill reconciles Zayas's Desengaños with the age in which it was written, contextualizing the book in baroque poetics, the Spanish honour code, and fifteenth-century martyr saints' lives. Elizabeth Rhodes elegantly uncovers Zayas's intention to reform the Spanish nobility by displaying noble misbehaviour and its deadly consequences. Her book concludes by detailing the Desengaños' intriguing influence on the aesthetic base of Gothic literature by revealing that its authors were avid readers of Zayas.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Setting the Interpretative Baseline
1. The Desengaños at a Distance
2. Attending the Soirée
3 Dressed to Kill: Death and Meaning in the Desengaños
4 Dead End: The Convent
5 Postscript: Laurela
‘This is a fine book that lives up to its beautiful packaging. Rhodes makes excellent use of artistic as well as literary evidence, incorporating carefully chosen illustrations into the body of her discussion… This new effort to read Zayas on her own terms can only enhance our experience of her texts. I applaud Elizabeth Rhodes for having the courage of her conviction.’ Hilaire Kellendorf, Renaissance Quarterly; vol 65:03:2012
‘Dressed to Kill is written in a lively and engaging style… This monograph makes a substantial contribution to Maria de Zayas’ works and more generally to the study of Golden-Age Spain; consequently it deserves to become a key reference point for future research.’ Eavan O'Brien, Bulletin of Spanish Studies, vol 90:07:2013